By John B. SnyderSeptember 28, 2009
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. - During a recent visit to the Arsenal Post Exchange, Leon Williams led me on a journey that felt like an hour-long game show. Leon has been the manager at the Watervliet Arsenal PX for about three years.
During my tenure in the Army, I have had the opportunity to frequent various Army and Air Force Exchange Service Post Exchanges or AAFES PXs. From the very large PXs such as the one at Fort Lewis, to mid-size at Fort Sill, to even a field operation in Baghdad, if there was a Pop Tart to be had, I found it.
Maybe it is the size of my PX that had not excited me to become a regular patron. But after a year here, I decided it was time for me to learn about Leon's operation.
Tucked away in building 40-4, is the Arsenal's small PX that Leon said is technically classified as a "Troop Store." Leon believes that someday the Arsenal will move up to the big time and will have what is commonly known as a "Shoppette."
Leon led me along the aisles that had such items as canned tuna and personal razors to a place where I had never visited before, the alcohol aisle. That is my story and I'm sticking to it, regardless of what Leon tells you.
Now, I didn't pause at the alcohol aisle to promote it, but I mention it because roughly 80 percent of Leon's sales come from alcohol and from the sale of cigarettes. Sales of these items are only available to active, Guard, Reserve, and retired military members.
Although those sales have been great for the Arsenal, this is not the area that Leon wishes to grow. "More than half of the PX space is dedicated to non-alcohol products such as food and snack items, as well as for personal hygiene products," Leon said.
This is when Leon welcomed me to his game show Aca,!aEURc "I'll Match It."
Leon said that although he prices his products in line with local Rite Aid and Stewart shops, he will match any local store price, to include sale prices. And, he will match any price within $10 without a sales ad. Leon said he trusts his customers and if they tell him the price is cheaper elsewhere he takes their word for it. Wow, what a novel idea.
I asked Leon if I tell him that I can buy his brand of potato chips for a dollar less than what he has listed on the bag, he said, "I'll match it."
I then went to the soda aisle and asked Leon if I tell him that I can buy that case of soda for less than he has it listed, he said, "I'll match it."
Pausing at the alcohol aisle Aca,!aEURc it is a small PX and I was bound to wander down that aisle again Aca,!aEURc I asked Leon if I tell him that I can get a case of beer for $3 cheaper from a local store, he said, "I'll match it."
Tiring of this game, Leon threw in the kicker Aca,!aEURc "I'll not only match it but you won't pay any sales tax."
Although the "I'll Match It" game was fun to play, Leon told me about other great deals available at the PX.
Leon has set up an online ordering center in the store. If there is a product that you would like to buy, such as a TV, but Leon doesn't carry it, he can order it from either another PX or from the AAFES Catalogue. If ordered from another PX, you won't pay for shipping. Again, there is no sales tax on any items purchased.
Additionally, AAFES has a new program called, "Click to Brick." According to the AAFES website, Click to Brick offers free shipping of select Exchange Online Store orders to participating exchanges in the continental United States. More than 115 items are currently part of the "Click to Brick" program, with that number expected to approach 500 by year end.
Despite its small size, the Arsenal PX has a powerful effect on the post.
Leon and his staff of two, Dave Carmel and Carolyn Sullivan, have built up the annual sales by more than 30 percent in the last three years.
So what' One may ask.
Leon said that up to 40 percent of the PX's profits are returned to the Arsenal for our Morale, Welfare, and Recreation fund or MWR.
According to Dave Madsen, Non-Appropriated Fund Program Coordinator, that translated to $15,285 for fiscal year 2008 and Leon is well ahead of that figure in this fiscal year having already kicked back to the Arsenal $19,454, with one month to go.
This money is used to supplement such MWR activities at the Watervliet Arsenal as the Body Forge fitness center, swimming pool, playground area, and Cannon Club, Dave said.
So, the next time you have an urge to shop, you may want to challenge Leon or AAFES to a game of "I'll Match It." Not only will you a great price, but also part of the profits will remain at the installation.